Pitbulls: The Nanny Dog

September 28th, 2011 by C.J.

Back in the old days they were known as the “Nanny Dog” because they were so good with children. It wasn’t until more recent years that dog fighting a-holes seem to be attracted to the breed and train them to be violent and aggressive. For many years the Pitbull was the family dog, often left to protect and look after the children when the parents were away. Didn’t matter if you were from a rich family or a poor family, having a pitbull in the house made parents feel better about leaving their children home alone. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

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17 Responses to “Pitbulls: The Nanny Dog”

  1. [...] Volunteer Chat (dog rescue) on FB and had to share it with you. Pit Bulls were once known as ‘nanny‘ dogs, because they were/are so good with children. Some of you may recall Petey from Lil [...]

  2. Rob says:

    Please provide a solid source to back up your assertion that pit bulls were once known as “nanny dogs”. This would necessarily come in the form of a reference in a book or newspaper from the late 19th to early 20th century, roughly the era that these photographs were taken.

    I have searched the archives of four major newspapers for terms like “pit bull” “pit bull terrier” “staffordshire”, even “nanny dog”. These archives go back to the mid 1800′s, and other than dogfighting results, I find nothing…until this from page 6 of the NY Times, Feb 22, 1895:

    “It was children’s day at the dog show yesterday, and of course the toy dogs came in for a big share of the admiration. The little ones wanted to pet the little fellows of the canine world, and were immensely pleased with what they saw. They looked at the big dogs with awe, and kept a respectful distance from the bulls and snapping terriers.”

    That doesn’t sound very “nanny-ish”, considering its the first we’ve heard of these breeds outside the pit.

    As for taking old photographs as proof that the dogs are safe for children to be around, I can offer up dozens of old photographs like this and make all sorts of assertions:




    Given the public concern over the safety of pit bulls, and given that you are an established source of these pit bulls, I am sure that you would not want misleading information to find its way to prospective owners who look to experts like you for guidance.

    I look forward to having my concerns alleviated.

    Kindest regards,
    Robert Striker

  3. [...] the hysteria regarding pit bulls as being killers, they were more traditionally been known as nanny dogs as they were often adopted because of how well they interacted with [...]

  4. Debbie says:

    Hello Robert. There are many online articles, postings and references to pitbulls being a “nanny dog” but I cannot provide a source from the late 19th century. The UKC breed standard says that American PitBull Terriers “make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children.” This site also states that “Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed.” The APBT is a clearly a very strong and powerful breed of dog. APBT’s should be owned by folks who will exercise, socialize and provide proper training for their pet. Whether it is a pitbull or a poodle, parents must always use caution and common sense when allowing ANY dog to interact with children/babies. When placing a dog into a home with a child, each individual dog should be evaluated based on their characteristics and behavior, NOT their breed. Careful consideration should always be taken when placing a dog into a home with a child, regardless of breed.

    Ref: http://www.ukcdogs.com/Web.nsf/Breeds/AmericanPitBullTerrier11012008

  5. Krys says:

    Robert you need to understand that eye witness reports of dog attacks are unreliable. I work at an animal control shelter where bite dogs that were called pitbulls by the victim or bystanders. Guess what they are large labs or mastiff mixes. Many people can’t tell a Cane Corso from a Boerboel. 2nd when fighting dogs was legal people killed their dogs if became people aggressive. So before you judge a Breed or breeds please spend some time with the actual breed. ANd further more instead of reading about how vicious and dangerous they are from hear say investigate for yourself.
    Thank you to all the Bully Lovers

  6. Linda Loftus says:

    I am surprised by this website. What scares me is the thought that someone, ill equipped to handle the personality and strength of a “nanny dog”, would take one home with an unrealistic expectation. I feel this is irresponsible on so many levels for you Alliance to support this fable and put human lives at risk. If you have other information, that would substantiate your claims, I’d love to read it and be supportive. The dogs and families have both become victims.

  7. Penny Brugman says:

    I have been a supporter of a breeder of and an absolute lover of this breed for my entire life. I have raised my daughter around this breed and now I am raising my grandbabies around this breed without any reservation for the safety of them. Pitbulls are such a loyal breed of dog that it gives them a bad name, they trust that their owners will do right by them and not train them to fight or be agressive. I would trust this dog anytime with with my life and the life of my children and grandchildren !! I have worse experiences with German Shepards, I raised several from puppies just to have them attack me when they became adults, but NEVER have I had one of my pits attack me with anything but unconditonal love !

  8. Pitbulll Lover says:

    I have an 10 month old female pitbull and a 4 year old toddler. She has NEVER been aggressive to my son, other children or strangers walking by us on the street. She is protective of our family and doesn’t allow anyone to knock on our front door without alerting us. In fact one time she came in the house and barked until I took her out front because there was a stranger riding by yelling on his bike. She is full of love because we treat her as a member of the family. She isn’t left outside on cold nights and she receives hugs and kisses throughout the day every day. It doesn’t matter what breed of dog you have it matters how you raise and treat that dog. I don’t believe in raising any dog to fight and it’s NOT the pit bull breed with the aggressive behavior it’s the human beings who own them!

  9. Rafael says:

    Cesar Millan, renowned expert on dog behavior, when asked : “Are pitbulls the most dangerous breed?” he said that it was a myth, and that pitbulls are just like any other dog. I challenge any of you to present a certified expert on animal behavior that states that pitbulls are dangerous. I’ll be waiting.

  10. James says:

    Rafael, pitbulls are more dangerous because they are strong, not because they are more aggressive than other dogs. What’s more dangerous? A pug with a bad owner or a pitbull with a good owner?

  11. Katherine says:

    It just sickens me that some people are STILL discriminating against this amazing breed. People, get your heads out of your ass and understand aggression is NOT genetic!!!

  12. Linda Thomas says:

    Thank you so much for these lovely pictures! Of course, the “pit bull” haters, which are so ignorant of any message we try to instill, will continue to dispute whatever we put here! First of all, pit bull is not a breed, but a type of terrier. The nanny dogs in Old England, were Staffies, which are also labeled pit bulls in this ignorant land of ours! Typically they were family dogs, not necessarily called “nanny dogs”. Secondly, 83% of pit bull type dogs, pass temperament tests higher than golden retrievers! Third, 75% of people in this country, couldn’t pick out a “pit bull” even when given a full picture of one. That includes shelter workers, and is the main reason that BSL is beginning to collapse all around the country! I would imagine that all these misinformed, and low information people, think that all sled dogs are of one kind as well. Think again about that one too! People get an idea in their head, and think they are beyond reproach!!!! Sorry, but you are just displaying your total ignorance to information and re-education. Why do you continue to choose to be wrong? I have pit mixes and rottweilers, and all are loving family dogs. The media does not report about dog bites from other breeds, but only bully breeds. True, the bully breeds have more power, and their bite will inflict more damage, pain, and yes, they have killed. Dogs don’t kill our of any inherent viciousness, but from brutal training, chain tethering, cage confining (usually so small the poor dog can hardly stand), food denial, constant abuse including prodding with electric sticks, and beating with clubs and bats. Let’s see how long you put up with that treatment, before you charge and bite! The only bad pit bull, is a tortured and abused pit bull! Even then, when they are removed from their life of hell, they will respond with grateful love of man! My boy was a bait dog, and when I found him on the street with bits and old wounds from fighting, he came right to me with tail wagging and snuggled to my leg for the love he knew was saving him! We need stiff laws for the abusers, the fighters, and any of those that beat or otherwise torture their animals. Blame the human, not the dog!

  13. [...] a Pitbull doesn’t mean it’s going to bite you. Did you know Pitbulls used to be called nanny dogs because they’re so good with kids that parents would have their Pitbull babysit their small [...]

  14. bud says:

    I feel sorry for those of you who are so ignorant towards who the real danger is!!Its not the pitbull who is the danger its the owner who is the danger.If raised properly ( like any other breed ) you will have the best dog ever! Stop being ignorant,you dont know the breed until you have owned a pit!I trust my dog with my life and ive never come across a dog who is more willing to please its owner,a dog who is happier to see its owner after a long day at work,or a dog who makes my life more beautiful!so before you speak open your eyes and close your mouth!xx

  15. Mike says:

    I totally agree with the nanny side of a putt bill, I have a red nose Pitt with my 10 year old and 7 year old children. My kids named her Charlie after the Charlie Angels movie, even thou she is a 2 year old female. The above posts reference prove, and I can tell you that Charlie is a great dog and totally protects my kids when it comes to playing with them and ruff housing with them. She gets between who ever is playing with them, to make sure every thing is going ok… To give you another example on how well she will protect the kids to include my wife and I, she will get up onto the pool ladder and watch the whole family in the pool. On the same note: While on the pool ladder ( in South Texas with a lot of yellow jacket and honey bees attempting to get some water from the pool) Charlie will constantly bark at any bees or yellow jackets, which may fly by the pool next to any one in my family.

    I’m a dog lover and have several different Breads in my life to include Labs, roots, small dogs, and one pit bull, and out of all of the dogs Charlie has the personality of a nanny dog. I have personal seen it in other putt bills to include Charlie. This is my wife’s first big dog, and she has also witnessed the nanny instinct with Charlie on numerous occasions when strangers coming to the door. Charlie is not an aggressive dog, due to use introducing her to several people and other dogs during her younger puppy age.

  16. Bitt Faulk says:

    Rob is right. There doesn’t seem to be any validity to any dog ever being popularly known as a “nanny dog”. (I definitely agree with you.) It does mean that those who disagree with you will be able to show that you’re making up fanciful stories for your own ends, though.

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